Glass Half Full Archived Columns

Tuesday, December 6
While San Antonio defeated the Magic 110-85 Monday night, once again rising star Dwight Howard made quite an impression. Just listen to what three-time champion and two-time MVP Tim Duncan had to say after the game. “I was looking before the game and I am like 9 ½ years older than him (Dwight Howard). That is just crazy. He is so talented. He is so developed. He doesn’t look like a 19 or 20-year-old. He has so much promise and I am just glad that I will be out of the league when he is peaking.” Echoing Duncan, Spurs head coach Greg Popovich said: “He’s a great young player. He’s obviously worked on his offense a lot. He’s tried to get better in that regard. In terms of going to the boards, rebounding, blocking shots, he’s going to be one of the best ever. And it looks like he has the work ethic to improve at the offensive end. He was fun to watch actually. I enjoyed that.”

Monday, December 5
Is there a doctor in the house? Plenty, if you wear a pair of Magic slippers. Orlando has already lost 45 player games to injury or illness. Hopefully that giant fly swatter will come out soon and swat that darn injury bug. There seems to be some hope on the horizon. Grant Hill (sports hernia) returned to practice Sunday and should be in uniform soon. Hedo Turkoglu (flu) and Steve Francis (ribs/chest/shoulder) practiced Sunday as well. That leaves Keyon Dooling (inflamed plantar fascia) as the only one in a boot, if you take out warrior DeShawn Stevenson who will play the season with floating cartilage in his knee. It really is amazing Orlando has been able to tread water and remain around .500. Injuries, though, are part of this marathon of a season run at a sprinter’s pace. No one is crying for the Magic, but it would just be nice to have a full arsenal soon, you know where the guys who provide change-of-pace energy off the bench aren’t always starting. Hopefully this is just a phase that the Magic can get through. Anyone for an apple?

Sunday, November 27
Here’s the long and short of it: the Magic Draft Class of ’04 – 19-year-old forward/center Dwight Howard and six-foot guard Jameer Nelson – have been two keys to Orlando’s recent success. This past week “Dynamite Dwight” averaged 13.7 ppg., 13.7 rpg. and 1.67 blkpg. in 32.3 minpg. (41 pts., 41 rebs., 5 blks., 97 mins.), as Orlando won all three of its games. “Second Half Nelson” meanwhile has embraced his role and has sparked the Magic off the bench. Of his 109 points scored this season, 82 have come in the second half (75.2 pct.). He leads the team in fourth quarter points as well with 61. Dwight and Jameer are great friends as well. Jameer often inquires about Dwight’s age (12 or something?), while Dwight often asks about Jameer’s height (five-foot-something?). Together, they are playing big for the Magic which now heads on the road for four straight games. After the four-game trip, Orlando, which has won six of its last nine, will play nine of the final 11 games of 2005 at home – certainly a key stretch for the club which will play 10 of 15 on the road in January.

Monday, November 21
The Magic returned to the practice court today and Head Coach Brian Hill hammered home three basic messages. First, concentrate on offensive execution. Set good screens, take care of the ball, and attack the basket. Second, we need continued good defensive execution and effort. Remember the defensive principles and work from an individual and team standpoint to stop the opponent. Third, and probably most important, stay together. We’ve only played nine games and there’s a long way to go. Hill will look for his team to continue to work hard every day en route to improvement.

Wednesday, November 16
Like a rocket at liftoff, right before our eyes Dwight Howard is getting better and better. Last night, in Orlando’s win against Charlotte, he recorded his fifth straight double-double and became the youngest player in NBA history to record 20-plus points and 20-plus rebounds in the same game (21 points, 20 rebounds, 19 years, 342 days). The Magic coaching staff’s plan for Dwight is for him to continue to take incremental steps and improve at his own pace. Dwight’s going to see different defenses each night (i.e. double-teams coming from different places and in different ways). Says Brian Hill, “I think the biggest thing is he’s really slowing his game down right now. He’s not doing anything in a hurry. He’s reading the defense and taking what the defense gives him. If they’re going to play him single coverage he’s getting into his offensive game and if they’re going to run people at him he’s finding people on the perimeter. He’s been a quick learner that way. Those aren’t easy things to learn when a guy’s becoming a post-up player for the first time in his NBA career. I think even more impressive than that is 20 rebounds—that’s monster, that’s monster night.” More to come.

Thursday, November 10
A little of this, a lot of that...Dwight Howard nicknames I have seen: Holy Moly, The Apostle, Thundercat, The Eraser. Keep them coming…Orlando has started to lay the foundation for an identity this season. What you have seen is a gritty, grind-it-out, defensive team. As often noted, the Magic allowed 101.8 ppg. last season (28th out of 30 teams in the NBA). To date, the Magic have allowed 85.6 ppg. Playing defense will keep Orlando in most every game it plays – especially while Grant Hill is sidelined due to injury. Also of note, in 20 quarters played so far, the Magic have held its opponent to 22 points or under 12 times. The critics will say it’s winning ugly basketball. Glass Half Full says it’s winning basketball.

Sunday, November 5
This is going to be short and sweet. Some members of the Fourth Estate have suggested that Dwight Howard is in need - in need of a nickname. The media is right, so Glass Half Full faithful, let's give him one, although I'm of the the thought he's on his way to no last name needed status, i.e. Michael and Tiger. Anyway, send them in and we will post your suggestions. Keep the faith, Dwight, the coaches and the rest of the team is working and playing hard. The W's will come.

Wednesday, November 2
Orlando Sentinel writer Mike Bianchi once told me that the job of a columnist is to, "watch the battle from the mountain tops, ride down, and bayonet the wounded." He often hits the nail on the head, even if the criticism is sharp. Today, though, his column goes into the Glass Half Full Hall of Fame as he answers some of the critics as a new season dawns. Here's an excerpt:

"The common theme around this alarmingly apathetic town seems to be, "Why should we care?" I've got a better question: Why shouldn't we?

What else is there, Orlando?

The Magic are the only entity we have that has the slightest chance of galvanizing this fleeting, fractured, transient and transplanted community. It can't be the Predators. They could win every ArenaBowl from now until eternity, and the vast majority of this community wouldn't notice. It can't be UCF. There are too many fans in this city who are more loyal to other college teams.

It only can be the Magic. They are the only team in town with a chance to make this town a team.

Say what you will about some of their buffoonish personnel moves of the past that have driven away fans by the droves, but at least the Magic are trying to reconnect with this community. They've invited the Maitland Little Leaguers out to be honored in the first quarter tonight. The UCF Marching Band will play before the game. Miss America 2004, Orlando's Ericka Dunlap, will perform the national anthem.

The message the Magic are sending is clear: We are your team; this is our town."


Enough said. Let's enjoy the battle...GHF

Monday, October 31
With opening night quickly approaching (Wednesday, 7 p.m., vs. Indiana) a couple of thoughts: 1) We need a sellout. There are 400 tickets left for opening night and the Magic are looking for their first opening night sellout since 1998-99. It should be a great show…2) Two key indicators that the Magic are playing well: First, from a defensive standpoint, the Magic hold the opposition to under 95 points. Second, from an offensive standpoint, the assist-to-turnover ratio is close to 3-to-1. That means the team is moving the ball and not giving it away….3) What does one win mean? In the Eastern Conference, it can mean a lot. In six of the last 10 years, one win has been the difference from being eighth (in the playoffs) to ninth (playing golf and out of the playoffs). Over the last 10 years in the East, eighth and ninth place have been separated by an average of 1.8 wins.

Thursday, October 27
Here’s the Glass Half Full take on Grant Hill’s injury. First, we should all feel a little sad for Grant. While fighting through five ankle surgeries and a very scary staph infection, he easily could have opted for umbrella drinks on a sandy beach. Instead, he came to work every day and won the broken ankle battle en route to returning to All-Star form last year. Second, this easily could have been an injury that sidelined him for three to four months. Instead, he was diagnosed with a Sports Hernia that will keep him out for three to six weeks. Not to mention the doctors could have prescribed rest. If that didn’t work surgery would have been needed and the team would’ve been that much father down the road. Third, every team needs a little adversity. Head Coach Brian Hill will not stand for excuses, whether it’s an injury to Grant or anyone else. Each player will have to step up a little more. The guess is that playing without Grant for a little while will make the team stronger and better in the long run. Said Head Coach Hill, “We still have players here that are going to play hard and play within our system and play together as a team.”

Tuesday, October 25
Eight days until we can break open a new season. Just two preseason games left. Some thoughts while perusing the stat sheet through the Magic’s first 20 days and six preseason games:

While winning in the preseason isn’t the most important thing, one goal for your Magic this season is to re-establish the home court. We are 2-0 at the TD Waterhouse in preseason and 3-0 when you add on the game in Tampa. A nice start...If you extrapolate Dwight Howard’s 93 points and 46 rebounds over 148 minutes played during preseason, you would get averages per 48 minutes of 30.2 ppg. and 14.9 rpg. And, the kid is still learning every day…Steve Francis assists per 48 minutes would be 11.7 apg....Orlando needs to make its free throws (shooting 70 percent from the line during preseason) and cut down on its turnovers (19.5 pg. in the preseason)…Six magicians are averaging double-figures in the Magic’s motion offensive attack (Howard 15.5 ppg. in 24.7 minpg., Keyon Dooling 13.8 ppg. in 26.5 minpg., Francis 13.6 ppg. in 27.8 minpg, Grant Hill 11.5 ppg. in 20.5 minpg., Hedo Turkoglu 10.8 pgg. in 25.3 minpg., DeShawn Stevenson 10.4 ppg. in 25.0 minpg.)…In 24 quarters of play this preseason, Orlando has held its opponents 20 points or under 13 times....Last season opponents averaged 101.8 ppg. against the Magic (28th in the league). Opponents are averaging just 89 points per game this preseason.

Tuesday, October 18
There's been a lot of chatter about the new NBA dress code and I am here to say that, despite some interesting takes which have gotten a lot of ink, the vast majority of NBA players get it. You're coming to work, look professional. The guy I am concerned about is equipment ambassador/towel folder/travel coordinator Rodney "Sid" Powell. He owns exactly one suit jacket that he breaks out in even years for the team picture. During odd years he begs off and outfits the support staff in his standard khaki-golf shirt/t-shirt-sweater vest ensemble. The sweater vest is the staple to Sid's clothing line. Sounding like a race car driver, he calls it a "micro-fiber vest by Reebok." But, it's a sweater vest, and it serves a dual role - covering a wrinkled, and/or dirty shirt. Sid asked recently if he will "get a stipend' for his sweater vests, but the truth is the West Virginians’ wardrobe is all on scholarship. There's absolutely nothing he owns without a logo. I asked Grant Hill to describe Sid's fashion sense. His answer: "Free." Under the new rules, Sid now has to wear a sports coat over his vest to games. He says he is going to buy one blue one which he will "stuff in his bag" and break out every game on the team bus. He adds that he might spray it with cologne at the All-Star Break. Rest assured, no matter how he dresses, we love Sid, one of the true unsung heroes, stinky sweater vests and all.

Saturday, October 15
Like Legos or Lincoln Logs, you can see the Magic being put together. In three exhibition games Orlando has been able to turn up its defense just a little more each time out. The latest block came this past Saturday night vs. New Orleans/Oklahoma City. Despite getting off to a slow start - Orlando allowed 30 points in the first quarter and trailed by seven - the Magic were able to turn it up and play on the defensive end with the concepts that have been taught by Head Coach Brian Hill and his first-rate staff over the last 12 or so days. The results: Orlando (2-1) held the Hornets to 17, 17 and 19 points respectively in the last three quarters of the game to record an 18-point victory. Offensively, the ball and man movement is in motion as well. The picks are a little sharper, the ball is moving from side to side and inside out, and the players are looking to set each other up. Also Keyon Dooling, Jameer Nelson and Bo Outlaw have provided tempo-changing energy and production off the bench - certainly a welcomed weapon for your Magic. One other observation to date: you know how in little league there is awlays a parent in charge of bringing a postgame snack and drink? When the the players are small, attention turns to what the snack will be after the game. Oreos, Fritos and juice boxes for everyone! Anyway, I asked out loud the other day as to when does that end? PR man extraordinaire George Galante told me to look around. And that's when I noticed....there was a postgame spread in the lockerrom with chicken wings, pasta and cheese tortillas. Well the snacks are a little different, but the concept is the same. For the record, it never ends.

Tuesday, October 11
The old saying, "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game" is in action for your Orlando Magic. During the preseason - which starts tonight at Atlanta - objectives will be to bring defensive intensity and continue offensive movement. You are likely to see a number of different combinations. Remember to keep perspective. There's been no game-planning and only a small part of the offense and defense has been installed. Winning is certainly always important, but playing well is maybe more important now. Keep this fact in mind: over the last 10 years the combined preseason record for the NBA Champion is 35-39.

Saturday, October 8
No matter the size of the gym, when the popcorn is popping the energy level in players usually rises a little like mercury in a thermometer on a hot summer day. Such was the case for the Magic Saturday night, as the team - after eight grueling private practices over five days - held its first public scrimmage at the University of North Florida Arena in Jacksonville.

Said Head Coach Brian Hill after the 42-minute scrimmage before 2,000-plus fans, "I thought we had a good energy level tonight. Offensively we had good movement and there was good defensive intensity. All in all it was pretty good. Right now our priority needs to continue to be on defense. We have to clean up some concepts there. We have made some strides this week, but we still have a long way to go."

With the teams split-up evenly and the scoreboard illuminated for the first time this season, Orlando had 10 players score in double-figures. Pat Garrity showed his spread-the-floor shooting touch by scoring 22 points, as did Dwight Howard, who also grabbed a scrimmage-high nine rebounds. DeShawn Stevenson sank 16 points, while Steve Francis and Jameer Nelson finished with 15 points apiece playing against each other. Francis, in perhaps his best training camp session, had 10 assists and just two turnovers. Asked once again by the media as to who is the point guard, Hill explained simply that his interchangeable offense is a "two-guard offense, so if you want to call one the point and the other the shooting guard that was fine."

Mario Kasun had 14 points, Travis Diener had 13, including three three-pointers, and Hedo Turkoglu and Grant Hill had a dozen each. Keyon Dooling finished with 11. Overall Orlando had 38 assists and scored 184 points.

Of note, Orlando's Saturday morning practice and evening scrimmage were filmed by NBA Enertainment. The behind-the-scenes feature, complete with interviews, is scheduled to air on Oct. 17th at 7 p.m. on NBA TV.

Orlando will conclude training camp Sunday with a single morning session, practice back in Orlando Monday morning, and then fly Monday night to Atlanta for its preseason opener which is Tuesday.

Friday, October 7
As we head toward completion of our first week together, here are some observations...

* Orlando won 36 games last year, but did it with little attention to detail. With on-the-court accountability and back-to-basics discipline (to team/individual defense, setting screens, running offensive sets through to get good shots etc...) now a requirment, the Magic are in the process of being positioned by the coaching staff to take the next step.

* While the off-season saw little personnel change, that is absolutely a positive. Growing with the group will pay dividends. Also, look for coach Brian Hill to use the roster's versatility and flexibility to its advantage by playing a number of different combinations, especially in preseason games.

* Grant Hill is Grant Hill circa 1999. He's doing it all - inbetween game, driving to the rim, rebounding, passing, ball handling, defending - with no hesitation or tentativeness at all. He's been awesome.

* As previously mentioned, GHF likes the energy, enthusiasm and tenacity of the Magic guards as a group. Also, in Brian Hill's system, the guards and really the 1 (point-guard), 2 (shooting guard), and 3 (small forward) are interchangeable. There's been way too much talk about who's the 1 and who's the 2, especially in this offensive system which focuses on movement, good shot selection, getting to the free throw line and second chance opportunities. Plus, it's been just a few days. The starters will be determined a little later.

* While Dwight Howard continues to improve before our eyes, his full potential is like a bottomless cup of coffee - and, he's just starting his second cup.

* While he's still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, the Magic need more from Kelvin Cato. Fellow big man Mario Kasun has been slowed by tendinitis, but had a great summer playing for Croatia in the European Championships. The Magic need the summer Croatian Sensation Super Mario to take the next step.

* Tony Battie and Pat Garrity are absolute pros. Although it may take some time, Travis Diener has been dynamite in camp - especially his Thursday practice where he showed his shooting touch and playing-making abilities.

* Words/Phrases that come to mind when describing Brian Hill's training camp are: Teaching. Back To Basics. Making Winning Plays. Accountability. Attention To Detail. Defense. Defense. Defense. I will throw in 'Post Practice Ice' as well, as the Magic's collective muscles are sore from all the work they've done. Head coach Brian Hill, one of the truly good guys, is also very focused and has an absolute burning competitive fire which he is in the process of igniting under his team. He expects things to be done the right way.

* With the Magic taking the court for its first preseason game Tuesday in Atlanta, remember it's just the exhibition season. Currently, Orlando has a grand total of two offensive plays installed and the defense is undergoing an overhaul. While winning is certainly of paramount importance always, this is also a time to keep perspective.

Thursday, October 6
I love Keyon Dooling. Everything about him is absolutely contagious. On the court, he's the type of defender who will get in your face and the whole team will feed off his energy and lock down their man a little tighter. Between drills, his bubbly, positive attitude keeps everyone loose, and everyone going. His upbeat, hardworking, can-do attitude has infiltrated Camp Hill. He bounces around the gym firing out unique motivational messages and phrases like, "You better know it, jack" and "You heard me." I'll tell you what, this guy's a magical leader, not unlike former fan favorite Darrell Armstrong. Dooling's energy has been key for the team near the end of each two-plus hour practice session thus far. That's when Coach Brian Hill puts the squad through a baseline-to-baseline, lung-busting conditioning drill. As a team the Magic must make 100 baskets in four minutes. Here's how it works: three players do a classic three-man, three-pass weave down the 94-foot court. Player A makes a layup, while Players B & C receive passes from the next in line to go the other way and then shoot game-type jump shots. The team can make a maximum of three buckets on any one trip down the floor. The action goes back-and-fourth, end-to-end. Everyone watches the clock tick away, calculating if they are on pace. Make the 100, hands in and practice is over. Fall short, reset the clock and do it again. It's a great drill because it includes basketball conditioning, game type shots in transition, teamwork (make good passes) and camaraderie (we're in it together). With Dooling, Jameer Nelson, Steve Francis, DeShawn Stevenson and Travis Diener on the roster, the Magic backcourt is energized.

Wednesday, October 5
As Orlando enters its second straight day of two-a-day practices, perhaps one magician getting overlooked is DeShawn Stevenson. He attacks the basket like a Doberman, shoots the ball with the range of a high-powered rifle, and defensively can lock you up as tight as Houdini in a stratight jacket. He brings a certain swagger to the Magic line-up, but is apparently as stealth as the wide-winged spy plane. While everyone is somewhat understandably talking about point-guards and post-players, D-Steve continues to work his magic in all phases of the game. Last year he played in 55 games for Orlando, averaging 7.8 ppg. overall. As a starter in 27 games, he averaged 13.4 ppg. As a 19-year-old he became the youngest player to ever play and start for the Utah Jazz. Apparently a little of Jerry Sloan's discipline to the game and his own work ethic has collided, as the now 24-year-old is looking for a breakout season. Glass Half Full calls him the X-Factor. He may start. He may finish. But the educated guess here is that he impacts the game, whether getting to the basket with a da-na-na-evening-TV highlight-type move, spreading the opposing defense with an improved jumper he worked on all summer or picking your pocket. A five minute stretch during this morning's practice showed Stevenson's talents. During a fast-paced baseline-to-baseline drill he threw a picture-perfect lob pass to Dwight Howard for a dunk, threw down a left-handed dunk himself, chased down a loose ball well out of bounds into the corner of the gym, and tickled the twine with a jumper from three-point land.

Tuesday, October 4
Tuesday morning has arrived and there is a first day of school wave of energy making its way through the gym. The players arrive early and are eager to impresss the new teacher, er, coach, Brian Hill. Two-plus hour of drills are done with impressive detail, as virtually every line is touched in lung-breaking work. The order of the new day begins with a 'D' for defense, a disaster last year even Glass Half Full (GHF) can't spin.There's defensive slides, transition defense and individual defense. There's one-on-one defense, two-on-one defense, three-on-two defense and five-on-five defense. The prevailing media question about "Who's The Point Guard?" is going to have to wait. For now it's back to basics defense, defense, defense. It's not unlike when Gene Hackman took over as coach in the movie Hoosiers. While there are basketballs in the gym, it seems like equipment manager extraordinaire Rodney Powell forgot to pack them. After the morning session, the players gather together for a team lunch. It's a meal great for thoroughbred athletes who just spent two-plus hours running, jumping and doing defensive slides, but horrible for the support staff. Why? It's a carbfest. Dr. Atkins is rolling in his grave. Such is the case with most team meals during two-a-day practices. GHF opts for the pasta-potato-cheesecake trio. GHF will have to squeeze in a workout of his own between practices, the second session of the day starting at 5 p.m.

Monday, October 3
As pitchers and catchers report for training each spring, there’s an old baseball saying which signifies the dreams of each team for the fast-approaching season - “Hope Springs Eternal.”

Such is also the case for basketball teams – including your Magic - as the leaves think about changing and there’s a break to the summer’s heat, but a sweat building in gyms across the country. The records have been reset. The past season’s champion has morphed into “defending champion.” It’s time to play a little round ball.

Come Tuesday morning, there will be a little extra pep in the step as the Magic open training camp in Jacksonville, Fla. For the coaches the next six days will consist of teaching, evaluating and planning. For the players, it will be the appropriately named “suicide” sprints, basketballs, and ice baths. For me, it will be a few less dinners at home, missing some little league games and ballet recitals, and a break from third-grade homework.

All leave their friends and families behind for the sake of their “basketball family” for the next eight months, and hopefully beyond.

Glass Half Full Storylines to keep an eye on:
Putting Up The Fence…Orlando’s defense will be emphasized from the moment the Magic take the court in training camp.
Point-Counter Point…Keyon Dooling and Jameer Nelson will look to make each other better at the point of the Magic attack, offensively and defensively. And don’t forget about gym rat Travis Diener.
Mr. Energy…Steve Francis, a three-time All-Star, brings never-ending enthusiasm and passion to the Magic. He’s not a 1 or a 2. He’s a basketball player.
Climbing The Hill…For the first time in six years Grant Hill spent the summer playing basketball, not rehabbing. Look for him to carry that work into training camp and beyond.
Dwight Determination…Last year Dwight Howard was one of eight players in the NBA to average a double-double. Look for him to take the next step, offensively and defensively.
Rubik’s Cube…Look for the Magic to use one of its strengths – roster/line-up versatility and flexibility. Look for a number of different combinations on the floor at any given time. Captain Versatility is Hedo Turkoglu.
Real Movement…Look for more ball and player movement on the offensive end.
Moving In The Right Direction…21 wins two seasons ago, 36 last year. The beat goes on.
Extra Point…After missing last season with a knee injury, Pat Garrity is back shooting the three ball.
X-Factor…Who will surprise? Don’t take your eye off of the ever-athletic DeShawn Stevenson.
Men In The Middle….Battie, Cato, Kasun hold down the paint for the Magic.
Chemisty Set…Most of the faces return from last year, making chemistry a key for the coming season. You don’t know how you get it, but you know when you don’t have it.
New/Old Coach…New Commitment…He’s back. Head coach Brian Hill, the right man for the job now, leads your team as it looks to bring back the Magic.

Thursday, September 29
Bo Is Back: The Magic welcomed back a friendly face today in the way of an Outlaw. Bo Outlaw signed and will be with the team when it opens training camp next Tuesday (Oct. 4th). Magic fans will remember Bo for his heart, hustle and work in the community (he was the 1998-99 Rich & Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award winner). One of my favorite memories of Bo was the night he recorded a triple-double vs. New Jersey. Bo scored 25 points, collected 13 rebounds and dished out 10 assists back on April 17, 1998. In the locker room after the game the media asked Bo what he thought of his triple-double. Quipped the consummate team player, “Triple-Double? What’s that, some kind of hamburger?” Bo, who wasn’t drafted and is a 12-year NBA veteran, was recognized for his unselfishness by Sports Illustrated coming out of the 1998-99 NBA lockout. That year the magazine named him as one of five players the league should publicize to bring back the fans. Today, we say, welcome back, Bo.

Monday, September 26
Ask Grant Hill one of his most meaningful memories while at Duke and he might just say, “The Fist.” The Fist in question is legendary Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s fist. Coach K demonstrates teamwork to his players by holding up a fist. Each of the five fingers represents a player on a basketball court. Individually, the fingers are not a great weapon. Together they are strong and powerful. Remove one or two and it’s less powerful than the five fingers balled together tightly. As Orlando’s Magic get set to head to training camp this analogy is a good one to focus on. The players are basically in place and have been working together away from the spotlight on their own over the last few weeks. Besides strength and conditioning, these past few weeks have been good from a chemistry-building perspective. Training camp, which starts Oct. 4, will enhance the bond as we get ready to flip the switch on a new season and the team gets set to take another step in the right direction. Two years ago: 21 wins. Last season: 36 wins. This season...Glass Half Full sees good things happening.

Wednesday, September 21
What will be the biggest change in your Orlando Magic for this season? Here’s a guess, it starts with a big, fat, capital D. Perhaps the most significant change to your Orlando Magic this season hasn’t come in a player acquisition, but rather in a philosophy. Defense will be required, both from an individual and team standpoint. If you think about it, the Magic improved by 15 wins last year from the previous year and did it by playing defense the way you do when everyone is tired, in the last game at the park on Saturday morning, after Friday night activities. Other non-personnel keys for the season will be establishing discipline which the players cried out for at the end of last year, and re-establishing the home court advantage. Add in team chemistry as well, although an old saying certainly comes into play there: “You don’t know how to get it, but you know when you don’t have it or lost it.”

Friday, September 16
I caught up with Steve Francis the other day and the Magic’s bundle of energy is rearing to go. In less than 20 days he will be unleashed, as the Orlando Magic open training camp in preparation for its 17th season (wow 17 seasons). Anyway, Steve popped in town for a photo shoot for Orlando’s new “Commitment” campaign and to visit with Coach Brian Hill. Between photo shoots he bounced around the gym shooting and building up quite a sweat. I’ve never seen a guy put so much energy into whatever he is doing, whether posing for photo flashes or flashing by a defender to the bucket. He’s excited about playing for Brian Hill and his staff, glad the team has a sense of stability to it as a lot of faces are returning and overjoyed with the birth of his daughter. Asked the question he will get most often – What do you think about seeing some time at shooting guard as opposed to just point guard?- Steve simply said his position was ‘basketball player’ and he’ll do whatever is asked to help the team. Steve-o The Sequel coming your away, and fast.

Monday, September 12
Coming back from our hurricane relief trip (the Orlando Magic took its team jet to Baton Rouge, Louisiana last week with 12,000 total pounds of supplies, and the front office staff - and Grant & Tamia Hill - visited area shelters), it’s a little difficult to worry about what other “big man” we might sign.

The scene was riveting and we all got a big, fat helping of reality.

But, as some have suggested, the games give us a break from the reality. No games and the hurricane has won. As we steam toward the season, a buzz is starting to build at Two Magic Place. We are just 25 days from the start of training camp (Oct. 4), 32 days from our first preseason game (Oct. 11), and 54 days from our season opener (Nov. 2).

Here is a snapshot inside our offices: The coaches are huddled in Brian Hill’s office, planning practices, diagramming plays and running through dry erase pens like kids going through boxes of Crayolas. The players turn up their strength and conditioning programs, while 1-on-1, 2-on-2, 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 games breakout on the Magic practice court park-like. Basketball Ops reviews options, rosters and cap room. Telephones ring rhythmically in ticket sales. Marketing brainstorms new game entertainment ideas, giant Post-It Notes now becoming a fresh coat of wall paper. Community Relations concentrates on player programs, while planning a charity golf tournament and community-wide luncheon. Broadcasting finalizes the TV and Radio game and show schedules, while discussing ways to bring the players into your living room. Communications finalizes the media guide, while discussing stories you may not necessarily read in your morning paper. Corporate Partnerships creatively tie sponsors to the team, while Human Resources and Information Technology keep us all going. Finance counts and Magic Carpet Aviation readies the aircraft for a marathon run at a sprinter’s pace.

Friday, September 2
One of the Glass Half Full positives which doesn’t get a lot of attention is the fact that the Magic roster as it stands today has as much versatility and flexibility as a Rubik’s Cube. Virtually every player on the team plays multiple positions. Point guards Jameer Nelson and Keyon Dooling can play shooting guard, and Steve Francis can certainly play either of the backcourt positions. Ever-athletic shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson can play the two, three, and has even played some at the point. Small forward Grant Hill can also play the two, or even the point with his passing acumen, court vision and understanding of the game. Dwight Howard can play power forward and center. The same goes for Kelvin Cato, Tony Battie and Mario Kasun. Hedo Turkoglu can play 2, 3 or even 4. As a 4, Pat Garrity can spread the floor like a 2 with his three-point shooting ability. Stacey Augmon is a stopper in stretches and point guard Travis Diener just loves to play. It all adds up to many combinations which just might provide a major headache for the opposition.

Monday, August 29
As I wandered down to the Magic practice court late last week, I saw a great sight. Among the players shooting jumpers, lifting weights, riding stationary bikes and running suicides, was Grant Hill. He was matched up against DeShawn Stevenson in a good, old fashioned, pick-up three-on-three game you would think was Game Seven of the NBA Finals. Anyway, Grant was, well…Grant. He was slashing to the basket, shooting his patented mid-range jumper, and defending with determination. But better than that was the fact that ‘The Feeling’ was almost gone from me. You know ‘The Feeling’, right? Grant Hill spins off his defender, races to the rim, is knocked to the ground by the help defender who outweighs him by 40 pounds, and the air goes out of the arena. You can hear a headband drop. Will he get up? Did he twist/sprain/fracture his five-time, surgically-repaired left ankle? Is he OK? Then there’s a collective sigh of relief as he pops to his feet. Anyway, in the three-on-three game Grant hit the floor a dozen times and just once did I hold my breath and knock on the wooden bleachers. He looked great in this first off-season in more than five years which has not included swimming pools and/or lengthy rehab sessions which included being hooked up to a device which sends electrical stimulation through his leg. He was just playing basketball, like, well…Grant Hill.

Monday, August 22
As I dropped my little girl off at pre-school the other day she cautioned me before we got out of the car not to call her “Muffin”. This hit me like cold water in the face. I had always called Madeline, a.k.a. Maddie, “Maddie Muffin”. But, despite being just four (going on 15), she sent a message that she was (yikes) growing up (of note, she said I could still call her “Muffin” in the car and house, but not outside). This got me to thinking. Maybe, just maybe, the Magic is like my “Muffin” – growing up. As you know, as you grow there are exciting times and challenging times (speaking of challenging times, my son, Max, is in third grade and the math homework is downright scary to me). Think about it. The Magic have had some exciting times (i.e. being born in Orlando in 1989, NBA Finals just six years later, my personal favorite the Heart & Hustle team) and some challenging times (i.e. 21 win season two years ago). The bottom line is that it’s all part of the mix and experience of being a parent, er, fan. You get both. The Glass Half Full feeling, though, is that the challenging times make the exciting times that much better. Everyone needs to suffer a little. It’s part of the deal. The Tampa Bay Buc fans went through it, as did the Boston Red Sox faithful. We’ve had a some great times with Orlando’s Magic and some challenging times. But we’re just turning 17. Will there be challenges ahead? Yes. Will there be great times? Most definitely. Realize this: A MGM memo in 1933 said Fred Astaire “Can’t act. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” Ray Kroc didn’t sell his first McDonald’s hamburger until he was 52. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper for lacking ideas. Again I state, 16 months ago we had the worst record in the NBA (21-61). We tacked on 15 more wins last year. We’re moving in the right direction.

Monday, August 15th
So, You Want To Be A GM?
(Because everyone wants to be the GM, time to dust off a former column.)

So, you want to be a GM? Here are a few things to ponder. Start with the Salary Cap, the maximum dollar amount teams can spend on player contracts. But in the NBA, you have a soft cap, or a number of exceptions in which a team can be over the salary cap. Before we get to the exceptions, you need to have a basic understanding of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which in turn defines the Salary Cap. The CBA is the contract between the league and the Players Union. The CBA determines how the salary cap is set, the minimum and maximum salaries, the rules for trades, the NBA draft procedure, and a thousand other things you need to know. OK, back to salary cap. The cap is 49.5 percent of the Basketball Related Income, or BRI. BRI includes regular season gate receipts, broadcast rights, exhibition game proceeds, playoff gate receipts, novelty, program and concession sales, parking, sponsorships, arena club revenues, summer camps, proceeds from non-NBA basketball tournaments, proceeds from mascot and dance team appearances, proceeds from beverage rights sales, 40 percent of proceeds from arena signage, and 40 percent of proceeds from luxury suites. Taking the BRI percentage, subtract benefits and then divide by the number of NBA teams to arrive at the cap.

When determining team salaries in order to determine whether a team is over the salary cap, the following items are included:
- Salaries of all active players and players and players on the inactive list, including likely bonuses
- Salary payable to waived players
- Any salary being paid to retired players
- A percentage of the previous salary of un-renounced free agents
- Salaries offered in offer sheets
- The scale amount for the team unsigned first round draft picks
- A roster charge if the team has fewer than 12 players
- The combined amount of any Mid-Level, Bi-Annual, disabled player or traded player exceptions available to the team, if the teams is under the salary cap. Enter the Escrow system, which is the guarantee that total salaries won’t exceed the designated percentage agreed upon in the CBA.

Before you go on a spending spree, you better seriously consider the Luxury Tax. The tax is triggered when the league-wide salaries exceed the designated BRI by more than 10 percent. If the tax is triggered, then it is paid by all the teams that are over the Team Escrow Limit. In other words, if the tax is triggered you pay dollar for dollar what you are over the limit. If you are $25 million over, as a team you pay $25 million. To calculate the Team Escrow Limit, divide the BRI by 0.9 percent, adjust for benefits, and then divide the result by 30. Cap exceptions. You have your Qualifying Veteran Free Agents (i.e. Larry Bird), Early Qualifyng Veteran Free Agents (Early Bird), Non-Bird Exceptions, Mid-Level Salary Exception, Bi-Annual Exception, Rookie Exception, Minimum Player Exceptions, Trade Player Exceptions, Disabled Player Exceptions and Qualifying Offers. Anyone for the Rookie Scale, how to renounce a player, restricted free agency, option clauses, waivers, or achieved or not likely to achieved bonuses and their corresponding 25 percent limit on the value of the contract. How about Base Year Compensation?

So, you want to be a GM?

Because we have been getting so many e-mails, a quick word on spin.. Just a reminder, but Glass Half Full is not all about spin. It’s simply another side. Just because it’s the positive side, doesn’t make it spin. It’s just the other side and it’s likely more positive. Also the intent of this feature is to give fans another way to interact and get information. Remember, the meteorologist might say partly cloudy. At Glass Half Full that translates into partly sunny.

Thursday, August 11th
To start, the Orlando Magic has been to the playoffs eight of the past 12 season. The Orlando Magic has been in playoff contention 11 of the last 13 years with a .500-plus record in each of those seasons. Sports are cyclical. The cynic, understandably, says, “What have you done for me lately?” Seventeen months ago the Magic had the worst record in the NBA at 21-61. Last season the Magic improved on that mark by 15 wins to post a 36-46 mark, representing the second-best turnaround in franchise history. And they did that (win 36) with a “defense is optional” mentality and by losing 11 of their last 18. The core and the coaching staff is in place. Now, it’s time to build on the foundation.